Press release from Monmouth County Historical Association

On the evening of Wednesday, May 27, The Monmouth County Historical Association welcomes historian Joseph W. Hammond for a free,  public-welcome talk on the Hartshorne family of Middletown, and the history of their large estate called Portland — a piece of property so vast that at one time it encompassed all land east of Atlantic Highlands between the Navesink River and Sandy Hook Bay, including Sandy Hook itself.

Part of the MCHA’s Historically Speaking Lecture Series, the 7 pm program will be hosted inside the Visitor Center at Thompson Park, the flagship headquarters of the Monmouth County Parks System at 805 Newman Springs Road in Lincroft.

The story of the Hartshornes and Portland will be told with many illustrations drawn from the Hartshorne Family Papers (bequeathed in 2008 to the MCHA by the late Daniel Ward Seitz), and by additional materials donated to the collection by the estate of the late Ellen Noonan Adams.

Rich in maps, surveys, daguerreotypes, photographs and other visual materials of every description, the Hartshorne Papers are by far the largest manuscript collection acquired by the Association since its founding in 1898. Housed in 74 archive boxes, the collection documents every aspect of family interests and involvements from 1670 to 2014 with no gaps in its chronology. Roughly one quarter of the collection pertains to the life and California business interests of Benjamin Minturn Hartshorne (1826-1900), who amassed a large fortune in Western steam navigation and investments between 1850 and 1878.

Divided between two brothers in the mid-eighteenth century, the southern half of the Portland estate remained largely intact until portions of it were acquired in 1942 by the U. S. Government to construct gun batteries for the World War II defense of New York Harbor. Ownership of Portland passed from father to son through eight generations until the bulk of it was sold in 1952.

It took four years in phases to archivally arrange the Hartshorne Family Papers, and to prepare a detailed Descriptive Guide to its contents. Since 2008, Joseph W. Hammond has served as Consulting Historian/Archivist for the Hartshorne Family Papers project. The collection is now available for research, and more information on this and other archival holdings of the Monmouth County Historical Association can be found at the MCHA’s website.